Curtis, Toni, born 03-06-1925 New York City, was born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, one of three sons of Helen (Klein) and Emanuel Schwartz. His parents were Hungarian Jewish immigrants from Mátészalka, Hungary. Hungarian was Curtis’ only language until he was five or six, postponing his schooling. His father was a tailor and the family lived in the back of the shop, the parents in one corner and Curtis and his brothers Julius and Robert in another. His mother once made an appearance as a participant on the television show You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx Marx died age 86, on 19-08-1977 of pneumonia, Curtis said, “When I was a child, Mom beat me up and was very aggressive and antagonistic.” His mother was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. His brother Robert was also institutionalized with the same mental illness. When Curtis was eight, he and his brother Julius were placed in an orphanage for a month because their parents could not afford to feed them. Four years later, Julius was struck and killed by a truck. Curtis joined a neighborhood gang whose main crimes were playing hooky from school and minor pilfering at the local dime store. Aged 11, a friendly neighbor saved him from what he felt would have led to a life of delinquency by sending him to a Boy Scout camp where he was able to work off his energy and settle down. He attended Seward Park High School. At 16, he had his first small acting part in a school stage play. Curtis enlisted in the United States Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor and war was declared. After being inspired by Cary Grant’s role in Destination Tokyo and Tyrone Power
in Crash Dive, he joined the Pacific submarine force.Curtis served aboard a submarine tender, the USS Proteus until the end of World War II. On 02-09-1945, Curtis witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay from his ship’s signal bridge about a mile away. After the war he made his first film, the 1949 noir classic Criss Cross with Burt Lancaster Tony Curtis overcame problems with drug use. He was treated at the Betty Ford Center. One of his sons, Nicolas died 02-07-1994, age 22, of a drug addiction. In 1970, Tony was arrested at Heathrow Airport with a small amount of marijuana, and in later years he snorted cocaine with his daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis. In subsequent decades he said he was clean and sober, and there were no further arrests. In 1984 Curtis was rushed to hospital suffering from advanced cirrhosis as a result of his alcoholism and cocaine addiction. He then entered the Betty Ford Clinic and vowed to overcome his “various illnesses”. Beginning in 1990, Curtis and his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis took a renewed interest in their family’s Hungarian Jewish heritage, and helped finance the rebuilding of the “Great Synagogue” in Budapest, Hungary. The largest synagogue in Europe today, it was originally built in 1859 and suffered damage during World War II. In 1998, he also founded the Emanuel Foundation for Hungarian Culture, and served as honorary chairperson. The organization works for the restoration and preservation of synagogues and 1300 Jewish cemeteries in Hungary. He dedicated this to the 600,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Hungary and lands occupied by the Hungarian Army. He also helped promote Hungary’s national image in commercials. Tony Curtis here with Janet Leigh, Kelly and Jamie Lee. Curtis first wife Christine Maria Kaufmann, a German Austrian actress who he married age 18 and she 17 died age 72 on 28-03-2017
Death and burial ground of Curtis, Toni.
He underwent heart bypass surgery in 1994. Curtis nearly died when he contracted pneumonia in December 2006 and was in a coma for several days. As a result he used a wheelchair and could only walk short distances. On 08-07-2010, Curtis, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was hospitalized in Las Vegas after suffering an asthma attack during a book signing engagement in Henderson, Nevada, where he lived. Curtis died at his Henderson home on 29-09-2010, old age 85, of a cardiac arrest. In a release to the Associated Press, his daughter, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, stated: “My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages. He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world. He will be greatly missed.” He was interred at Palm Memorial Park Cemetery in Green Valley, Nevada.